Published: December 4, 2007

<strong><font size="2"><br /></font></strong>The California housing market slipped further in September as the negative effects of the Credit Crunch deepened. Several factors have affected the market adversely since the start of the year, among them low affordability, tighter underwriting standards, and a standoff between buyer and seller expectations. But the Credit Crunch accelerated the decline in sales in August, as even well-qualified buyers found it difficult to obtain funding for their mortgages. Despite the decline in sales, the median price edged up two percent in August, not far from all-time high.<br /><br />The market took a sharp turn in September, however, with sales falling below 300,000 for the first time since 1991, and with the median price registering the first year-to-year decline since 1997. Sales fell 14.9 percent month-to-month from 319,200 sales in August to 271,590 homes in September. Sales also continued to experience large year-to-year decreases, with a 38.9 percent drop from last year's September figure of 442,150 homes.<br /><br />All segments of the market experienced lower sales, but homes over $500,000 were hit the hardest. Up through August, the under-$500,000 segment experienced year-to-year declines in the range of 20 to 30 percent, but September brought a more severe 36.4 percent decline. Home sales between $500,000 and $1,000,000 saw 20 to 30 year-to-year declines through August as well, but that segment was rocked in September by a 52.4 percent year-to-year decline. Most significantly, the market above $1,000,000, which had seen small single digit year-to-year sales declines through August, suffered the most with a 26.4 percent year-to-year decrease in September.<br /><br />This had a dramatic effect on the statewide median price of a home in California, which fell from $577,150 a year ago to $530,830. The 4.7 percent decrease was the first such decline in over 10 years. Moreover, the median fell 9.9 percent month-to-month to $588,970, the largest month-to-month percentage decline on record going back to 1979.<br /><br />With declines in 22 of the past 28 years, a decrease in the median from August to September is not uncommon, and it typically marks the transition from peak season to off-peak. As recently as 2003, the median fell 5.3 percent from August to September. However, the Credit Crunch increased the magnitude of decline by cutting off funds to Jumbo loans, and in turn, the market above a home price of $500,000.<br /><br />This situation is mainly found in California and other states with high median home prices. With the national median at approximately $220,000, most buyers in the US could count on getting a conforming loan, even if they had to contend with tighter underwriting standards now compared to 2 or 3 years ago. But high-priced states like California have faced a triple-whammy in recent months, with a heavy reliance on higher-cost jumbo loans, tighter underwriting standards, and now, a lack of funds because of the Credit Crunch. Based on the behavior of the financial markets in recent weeks, the Credit Crunch remains a problem and will linger through the rest of the year.<br /><br />

Last modified: December 4, 2007 at 4:50 pm | Originally published: December 4, 2007 at 4:50 pm
Printed: September 29, 2020